By Rev. Anna Blaedel
Dear, dear ones.
Dear, beloved ones.
I returned home late last night from The United Methodist General Conferencein St. Louis where church sanctions on LGBTQ people were tightened. Mercy, mercy, mercy.
Dear ones, truth being revealed can be excruciatingly painful. Truths of deep and complicated legacies of violence, domination, and supremacy. Truths that link the legacies and raging forces of white supremacy, colonialism, genocide, and anti-queer and anti-trans violence. Truths of our own complicities and complacencies in these deadly systems. Truths of harm and violence that are not new nor news to those who have long suffered from the forces of evil, injustice, and oppression unleashed and unloosed.
The holy labor of liberation has been calling us for generations, and will need to continue for generations.
This struggle isn’t just about LGBTQ inclusion in The United Methodist Church. It’s about fighting entrenched, interlocking systems of oppression and bigotry. Bigotry that denies humanity and sacred worth. Bigotry that calls lives and our loves incompatible, illegal, unworthy, unclean. Bigotry that is deadening and deadly to our common, interconnected life.
Dear ones, this I believe: the truth will set us free. But before freedom comes deep grappling with pain.
White supremacy and colonialism were wreaking havoc at General Conference, including in spaces and by people covered in rainbows. When black and brown people are treated as props and photo ops, scapegoats and afterthoughts, we aren’t moving toward freedom and we aren’t building anything better.
A line from a prayer I heard long ago has been haunting me with holy truth: deepen our pain until we learn to share it.
Movement elder Ruby Sales teaches us to ask “Where does it hurt?” No healing can happen until we are honest and where (and why, and how) it hurts. Healing becomes possible only when we expose, and tell the truth about, and attend to legacies of pain.
Deepen our pain, until we learn to share it.
Deepen our pain, until we learn to share it more honestly.
Deepen our pain, until we learn to share it more equitably.
As long as the denomination, or any part of the church universal, is led by white people, by men, by money, by the insidious lie that obeying unjust rules will save us, we aren’t gonna get free, and the church isn’t gonna be faithful, and the arch of time isn’t gonna bend toward justice.
White men with big churches and large endowments aren’t going to save us. (But they can join in the Spirit’s movement for liberation.)
White churches with rainbow signs and statements of inclusion aren’t going to save us. (But they can join in the Spirit’s movement for liberation.)
White pastors wanting to preserve their pensioned place in a denomination unleashing deadly violence aren’t going to save us. (But they can join in the Spirit’s movement for liberation.)
The words of the Lorde teach us: The masters’ tools aren’t gonna dismantle this house.
But. And. Dear ones. There is Good News being proclaimed: Those whose ancestors have labored for liberation under generations of slavery, genocide, imprisonment, and violent displacement know the Wisdom that is our collective path to Salvation. They are leading and teaching. They are bearing witness to truths that are painful for the rest of us to really confront.
Connect the dots between the forces slamming shut the doors of the UMC, and the forces imprisoning Black youth, and the forces building walls on the border, and the forces militarizing the police, and the forces detaining refugees, and the forces digging illegal pipelines on indigenous land. This is the call of faith: Resist the forces of evil, injustice, and oppression in every form they present themselves.
This I believe: the deeper the connection with the legacies of pain and violence being revealed, the deeper the capacity to imagine and dream and enflesh Beauty, Truth, Freedom, and Joy. In the midst of, in spite of, the pain.
Our hope, dear ones, does not – and never has – come from or reside in the people, powers, and institutions whose actions and inactions have created this deadly and deadening reality; a reality that encompasses and surpasses the life of The United Methodist Church.
Remember, dear ones, the Good News: Divinity runs through y/our DNA. Sacredness resides in y/our weary bones. Holiness moves through y/our bodies and breath and being. The labor of liberation is our holy calling, our sacred tasking. Breathe deep. Weep with the knowledge that your tears are prayers bearing witness to pain. Hold one another and be held. Get clear about what and who nourishes and sustains you for the holy struggle. Because the struggle is far from over.
And dear ones, this struggle is not about the future of a denomination, or even the future of the institutional church universal. It’s about our creative capacity and vision for a future of collective liberation, healing, and repair. This repair work is the work of reparation, the salve of salvation, the labor of liberation.
May it be so.